Treats with few tricks involved
Who could not love Halloween? When you’re a kid you dream of what costume you’ll wear, and what fantasy character you get to be for one night...on top of garnering a bag full of candy. When you’re an adult, it’s a moment to let your inhibitions go, release your wild side, and not carry any regrets into the Holiday Season. There’s just something for almost everyone this time of year.
Where it all began
The tradition of Halloween evolved from many past traditions dating back to even before Christianity. It all started with the pagans of pre-Christian Ireland, and their celebration of Samhain (“sah-win”). The festival was meant to mark the oncoming of Winter, but of course with beliefs and superstitions rampant in those days, it was also a time to build protection from ghosts they believed came about at the end of the harvest.
The Gaelic Irish believed that at the end of Autumn, the bridge between the living world and the afterlife was open, and thus ethereal spirits were rampant, and could protect farmers and their harvest for the Winter. Offerings of food and wine were left out on doorsteps, or even some would make empty place settings at their table to invite said spirits to share in the harvest. They believed to not do this would result in food spoilage and disease over the winter months.
Evolving to the modern day
You can see some clarity on how Samhain evolved into what we know now as Halloween. Even the custom of dressing up in costumes and going door to door asking for food and treats was originally a Samhain custom called Guising.
Like many pagan holidays, they were “converted” into Christian holidays as the movement took hold. Religious leaders turned Samhain into All Hallows, or All Saints Day. As opposed to feeding spirits in hope of winter survival, it became a time to remember those whom we lost. In order to make a “comfortable conversion” for the pagans, many of the customs found their way into what became All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.
Wildly enough, many of those customs seemed to end up lost as time passed around most of the Christian world. It wasn’t until the 19th century, here in the United States, that Halloween customs began to grow. Obviously much of it due to the mass influx of Irish immigrants into the US, and thus other ethnicities finding interest in the Halloween traditions. Still, it took until the 1950s for Halloween to finish its evolution into the family fun holiday we know now.
Class is over, on to the treats!
Yeah, the history can be a bit daunting, but it’s still quite interesting. Still, Halloween isn’t so much about the past as it’s about FUN. For me at my age, I find some scary movies and homemade goodies to be the ideal Halloween.
In my book, nothing says “treat” more than chocolate. A while back, a cafeteria manager who put some passion into her work showed me the delicious simplicity in what’s called bark. Obviously nicknamed for its similarity to tree bark, it’s a simple recipe of chocolate melted with almost any combination of nuts and/or dried fruit. I’ve been an addict to the combination of dark chocolate with hazelnuts, and thus made my first bark in a similar form. The recipe though is quite versatile, and I’ll add more ideas down the road.
This may not be something you can give up to trick or treaters, but ideally it’s suited for sharing at home or even for a party. You could even make wonderful goodies for any occasion with this recipe. This will involve double boiling, so prep yourself in the process if you have never done it.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Hazelnut Bark
- 8 oz of dark or semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces if they're solid bars or blocks
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 cup of dried cherries, sliced into small pieces
- 1 cup of hazelnut pieces
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and a space in your refrigerator to place this pan.
- Set up a double boiler on your stovetop.
- Place the chocolate into the upper pot and slowly melt it until fully liquid.
- Stir in the coconut oil, cherries, and most of the hazelnuts, reserving a small handful.
- When the cherries and hazelnuts are fully blended with the chocolate, remove the upper pan from the double boiler.
- Carefully pour the mixture on to the parchment paper, using a spatula to spread it out into a single layer.
- Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts and the pinch of sea salt on top of the chocolate.
- Leave the pan to cool for an hour on your countertop or table.
- After one hour, place the pan into the refrigerator and chill until the bark has fully cooled and hardened.
- Break up the finished bark into smaller pieces and serve.
If you are unsure on how to use a double boiler, please see our quick guide in using one.
Take your time when melting the chocolate, and be sure to stir occasionally so the solid pieces melt thoroughly.
The coconut oil helps adds a smooth texture to the chocolate.
Reserving a small handful of hazelnuts is purely for visual reasons. It just looks nice with some exposed nuts in the final bark.
The sea salt is purely to balance the sweetness of the chocolate. Feel free to skip it if you so desire.
In many cases, the bark will fully cool and harden on its own without refrigeration. However, if you see your bark is still quite soft after an hour, then place the pan into the refrigerator to finish the process.
This recipe can be used as a basic framework for most bark. You could use milk chocolate or even white chocolate if you choose. You can use almonds, walnuts, pecans, and almost any dried fruit per your personal taste. I've seen some use dried kids cereal pieces. Those with more skill in a double boiler can even try swirling caramel or melted peanut butter into the mixture before pouring.
Healthy It Up
Sugar and Dairy-Free Version: I was actually tasked with making this bark for someone with allergies to cane sugar and cow's dairy. I started with unsweetened chocolate found in any baking section of a grocer. To sweeten it, I mixed in 4 tbsp of Stevia in the Raw as well as organic honey until I reached the flavor I desired. Agave nectar is also an option if you do not wish to use Stevia or honey. I also used an additional 1 tbsp of coconut oil to smooth out the texture, since unsweetened chocolate has no cocoa butter in it.